Eight months after Italy took a sharp turn to the right, the government headed by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni – whose Brothers of Italy party has neo-fascist roots – is wreaking havoc at state broadcaster RAI, prompting the abrupt exit of several executives and TV personalities and causing alarm within the country’s film and TV sectors.
At RAI, where politics have always held sway, managing director Carlo Fuortes resigned earlier this month saying he was unwilling to “agree to changes” in the broadcaster’s content and programming “that I do not consider to be in RAI’s best interests,” he underlined.
Fuortes has now been replaced by Roberto Sergio, a veteran RAI executive who is considered basically bi-partisan. The pubcaster’s new general director, instead, is former RAI board member Giampaolo Rossi, who is backed by Meloni’s Brothers of Italy and is known for his controversial tweets and support of Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Perhaps the most symbolic departure from RAI is that of moderately left-leaning talkshow host Fabio Fazio, and his sidekick, Luciana Littizzetto, a comedian known for her monologues targeting conservatives. After reportedly failing to get their contracts renewed in a timely manner for their top-rated prime time show “Che Tempo Che Fa,” they’ve signed a four-year deal with Warner Bros. Discovery that will see the show resurface on Discovery Italia’s terrestrial channel Nove in September.
“I’ve been in RAI for 40 years, but not everyone can be a man for all seasons,” said Fazio (pictured above) with a hint of sadness announcing his exit to viewers live on RAI during the show last week.
This week left-leaning journalist Lucia Annunziata, who hosts popular news program “Mezz’ora in più” in which she grills politicians of all stripes, also announced she will soon be leaving the state broadcaster in protest against the current government’s “mode of intervention regarding RAI.”
So where does this disruption leave Italy’s film and TV industries, for whom RAI is a major source of funding? And what’s next in terms of the conservative government’s broader potential impact on the Italian industry? The industry in Italy is currently on a roll largely thanks to the country’s generous 40% tax credit for national and international productions and other forms of government support.
“The government has repeatedly stated that the audiovisual industry is a strategic sector,” says Francesco Rutelli who heads Italy’s motion picture association ANICA, who adds: “In terms of government policies and regulation we are not seeing any disruptive elements on the horizon.”
Though according to sources fears that Meloni’s government could meddle with the tax credit have caused Hollywood studios to be a bit hesitant about planning to shoot in Italy, there seems to be no intention to touch the incentive that has been so crucial in breathing new life into the Italian industry.
It must be said that within RAI the two key executives who regularly liaise with the Italian industry, RAI Cinema chief Paolo Del Brocco and RAI Fiction head Maria Pia Ammirati, remain firmly in place. Both of their contracts have just been renewed by RAI’s new regime.
As for the Venice Film Festival which, like RAI, has always been an integral part of Italy’s political spoils system, the fest’s artistic director Alberto Barbera and Roberto Cicutto, who heads Venice’s parent org., the Venice Biennale, are not expected to be ousted before their mandates expire in 2024. After that, it will be interesting to see what happens.
What’s sure is that the cultural influence of the current Italian government that last September won by a landslide, lured by Meloni’s message blending Christianity, patriotism, anti-immigrant rants and her opposition to what she has called “gender ideology” and the “LGBT lobby,” is bound to reverberate.
What just happened at RAI is only the beginning.